FT120: “Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day; give him a job and he can have an obesity problem.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 1st, 2012

Fundamental Truth

In Warfare Starvation and Famine are the most Potent of Weapons

Starvation and famine has plagued mankind since the dawn of time.  It was the driving force in evolution.  Those who took control of their food supply lived.  Those who didn’t disappeared from the evolutionary path.  Like Neanderthal.  And those who came before him.  Our earliest civilizations massed their populations to farm.  And the masses lived in cities.  Setting down roots and saying goodbye to their hunting and gathering ways.  In the Wei River valley.  In the Indus River valley.  The valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris.  In the Nile River valley.  Where modern life took root.  Produced our first food surpluses.  And gave birth to urban life.  And the middle class.

The rise of the middle class allowed civilization to flourish.  For every person that didn’t have to produce food could do something else.  Build better tools.  Create a better government.  Create art.  In general, think about other things.  Those other things that made humans different.  By giving us a more interesting life.  And more sophisticated ways to express ourselves.

But this growth was a double-edged sword.  For large urban populations that made life more enjoyable was also a great threat to the food supply.  A cool and wet summer could destroy crops.  Poor food storage could spoil the food surplus.  A war could see an enemy purposely destroy your crops and your food surplus.  Causing famine.  Where half or your city population could easily die before the next harvest.  Or more.  Especially if the famine resulted from an act of war.   As an act of genocide.  To clear people off land that others want to use for their own food needs.  Which was Hitler’s plan in Russia.  To take the food from the Ukraine.  Kill the indigenous population.  And replace them with Nazis.  Thus creating more living space for the Third Reich.  Or Lebensraum.    Because in warfare starvation and famine are the most potent of weapons.

History has shown that the most Food-Abundant Countries are the most Capitalistic

England led the way in agricultural advances.  Increasing crop yields such that small tracts of land could support greater populations.  As well as produce such huge food surpluses that they had food to export.  As the British Empire spread across the globe so did their advanced agricultural ways.  During the 19th century starvation and famine were becoming rarer in the technologically advanced West.  The 19th century Irish Potato Famine reduced Ireland’s population by up to 25%.  A tragedy of epic proportions.  But it was an exception to the rule.  For food was growing so abundant in the advanced Western World that rarely did people go hungry.  Or feared famine.  And when mechanization and chemistry hit the farm our crop yields exploded.

During the Twentieth Century the Western World produced so much food that food prices plummeted.  Causing the Great Depression.  There was so much food available that farmers couldn’t sell their food at a high enough price to service the debt that they incurred mechanizing their farms.  But not everyone was producing bumper crops in the Twentieth Century.  Both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China set records for death by famine.  As they shunned the ways of the West.  And the state took over their agricultural sectors.  States that were so inept at good farming practices and things economic that crop yields plummeted.  North Korea to this day can’t even grow enough food for her own people.  And has recurring famines.  Because they hold on to the communist ways of Stalin and Mao.  While the Russians and the Chinese have long abandoned them. 

History has shown that the most food-abundant countries are the most capitalistic.  Countries whose agricultural sectors use the latest in technology.  And/or have a rich and vibrant economy that can buy all the food they need if they can’t produce their own.  Like Hong Kong.  Basically a rock off the Chinese mainland.  It has little arable land.  Few natural resources.  But what it does have is low taxation and free trade.  And laissez-faire capitalism.  The Chinese lost Hong Kong to the British Empire (who have since given it back).  And the British used laissez-faire capitalism to make Hong Kong the gem it is today.  Where people are free and in want of little.  And in this island nation that can’t grow enough food to feed their population famine is unheard of.  Why?  Because they have the wealth to trade for all the food they desire.  In fact, while Mao gave the people in the People’s Republic of China famine Hong Kong were doing just fine.  Because they were wealthy and could trade for what they needed.  And they had the Royal Navy protecting her.

In America our Food Supplies are so Abundant and so Cheap that Poor People are becoming Obese

Poverty is the biggest killer.  Famine is prevalent in poor countries.  Like Haiti.  North Korea.  And sub-Saharan Africa.  People suffer in these countries unlike they do in the West.  Despite the amount of aid the West pours into them.  And it’s not because Western nations were blessed with natural resources.  Hong Kong doesn’t have anything other than laissez-faire capitalism.  Protected by the Rule of Law and minimal government interference into the private sector economy.  The very things that are missing from Haiti, North Korea and sub-Saharan Africa.  Where corruption rules supreme.  There is little regard for human rights.  Or property rights.  And no one can protect their people from the abuses of government.  Or from warring neighbors.  Like the Royal Navy protected Hong Kong.  And pretty much the rest of the world during the 19th century.  Just like America’s military might made the world safe for capitalism in the Twentieth Century.

Third world nations are not a victim of first world nations.  They are a victim of themselves.  Where corrupt rulers collect Western aid and live well while their people suffer.  Especially the nations that eschew capitalism.  And embrace socialism.  Like the Soviet Union did.  Like the People’s Republic of China did (the current Chinese regime is enjoying economic growth by allowing some capitalism into their still communist country).  And like North Korea still does.  These socialist utopias were a living hell for their people.  Where they live in fear of their government.  And of famine.

Meanwhile in the Western capitalist nations what do they suffer from?  Especially the poor people in America?  Obesity.  In New York they’re passing laws restricting the size of sugary beverages because they are dangerous to your health.  While they pass out free condoms and birth control as sex is far less risky behavior than a delicious carbonated beverage.  Apparently.  Yes, in America our food supplies are so abundant and so cheap that poor people are becoming obese.  Because capitalism has made those food supplies abundant and cheap.  And capitalism gave people jobs where they could afford to buy so much food that they can give themselves an obesity problem.  A problem they just don’t have in Haiti, North Korea or sub-Saharan Africa.  Because they can’t grow enough food.  Or earn enough money to buy enough food.  For they don’t have an environment conducive to creating jobs.  Which is why these nations are still impoverished and/or suffering famine despite all the aid the West gives them.  Food aid will run out.  And then they’ll just be starving once again.  If they have jobs, though, they’ll be able to buy food whenever they’re hungry.  Because it’s like that old saying.  Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day; give him a job and he can have an obesity problem.

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North Korea Speaks Loudly but Hits with a Small Stick. So Far.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 23rd, 2010

FDR Gave Joseph Stalin Eastern Europe

How did we get this North Korean problem?

After World War II, the Soviets tried to spread communism.  And Roosevelt helped.  He gave Joseph Stalin Eastern Europe.  The German capital, Berlin, was inside East Germany.  The Allies partitioned it.  The United States, Great Britain and France split the West side.  The Soviets took the East.  And West Berlin was a thorn in Stalin’s side.  It was a gateway to the West for those oppressed under Soviet Communism in the East.

FDR liked Uncle Joe Stalin.  Both were Progressives.  And Stalin did Progressivism in a grand way.  The only problem was that the people didn’t want it.  They tried to escape from the heavy hand of Soviet rule.  So Stalin built a wall in Berlin.

Then, to seal the deal, he cut the rail lines into West Berlin.  He was going to starve the West Berliners into submission.  The West initiated the Berlin Airlift to relieve the besieged Berliners.  Stalin relented.  He restored rail service.  And the West checked the spread of communism in Europe.

The Soviets tried to expand into Greece, Turkey and Iran

The Soviets changed tactics.  They tried to entice Western nations into the Soviet Sphere.  To check the spread of Communism into Greece and Turkey, President Truman kept them into the Western sphere with generous U.S. aid.

During World War II, American aid for the Soviets fighting the Nazis came through Iran.  When the war ended, the Soviets didn’t want to leave Iran.  They wanted those warm water ports.  And that land in between those ports and the Soviet Union.  American support and aid to Iran eventually forced the Soviets to leave Iran.

Rebuffed in Iran, the Soviets found success in China.  And North Korea.  Truman implemented his Truman Doctrine to contain any further Soviet/communist expansion.  And, in 1950, this turned into a shooting war on the Korean peninsula.

The Cold War Heats Up

We call the standoff between East and West the Cold War.  The Soviet Union tried to spread communism.  The West tried to contain communism.  And the Cold War heated up on the Korean Peninsula.

The North Koreans invaded South Korea.  The United Nations fought back.  With General MacArthur in command, he pushed the North Koreans out of South Korea.  And he kept on going.  Pushed them all the way back to the Yalu River (the border with China).

And then the Chinese entered the war.  They poured over the border and pushed the U.N. force back.  Eventually, the front ended up about where it started.  At the 38th parallel, the military demarcation line to this day between the North and South.  There was an armistice to halt combat operations.  But no formal peace treaty.

The North Korean Ruling Elite Didn’t Lose, but their People Did

South Korea remained in the Western Sphere and prospered.  North Korea remained in the Soviet Sphere and stagnated.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea suffered from energy shortages and recurring famine.  The country is a mess.  The ruling elite have food.  But millions of North Koreans have starved to death over the years.

North Korea is a closed and isolated nation.  With a strict censorship of all media, the people know only the ruling party propaganda.  The ruling elite told great lies to the people to keep them from rising up.  They flipped the truth.  North Korea was rich and prosperous.  The United States was oppressing her people, starving them, invading other countries, etc.  A lot of North Koreans fear the United States.  And will suffer great deprivations to support their leader.

Which brings us to today.  With no one to turn to and being incapable of providing for their own people, they need Western aid.  But that often comes with conditions.  Such as lightening up on the human rights violations.  Which they are none too keen on.  If the people in North Korea do not live in fear and intimidation, they may threaten the ruling elite’s power hold.  So they have to find ingenious ways of getting the West to provide aid with fewer conditions.

North Korea Speaks Loudly but Hits with a Small Stick

North Korea likes to cause trouble.  Be provocative.  Threaten the West with annihilation.  Shoot people.  Blow things up.  Anything to get the attention of the West.  So the West will give them stuff to calm them down.  The latest provocative action involved the shelling of a South Korean island (see North Korea fires artillery barrage on South by Jung Ha-Won, Agence France Presse, posted 11/23/2010 on Yahoo! News).

North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island on Tuesday, killing one person, setting homes ablaze and triggering an exchange of fire as the South’s military went on top alert.

Which was more bad news upon previous bad news.

The firing came after North Korea’s disclosure of an apparently operational uranium enrichment programme — a second potential way of building a nuclear bomb — which is causing serious alarm for the United States and its allies.

Which was upon previous bad news.

Tensions have been acute since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which Seoul says was the result of a North Korean torpedo attack. Pyongyang has rejected the charge.

Russia and China Grow Uneasy with North Korea’s Provocations

Even past Cold War allies are not happy with this latest action (see World edgy on Korea, Russia sees “colossal danger” by Peter Apps, London, posted 11/23/2010 on Reuters).

“It is necessary to immediately end all strikes,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters during a visit to the Belarusian capital Minsk. “There is a colossal danger which must be avoided. Tensions in the region are growing.”

China, the impoverished North’s only powerful ally, was careful to avoid taking sides, calling on both Koreas to “do more to contribute to peace.

And why is China being so careful (see The Next Korean War? by Leslie H. Gelb posted 11/23/201 on The Daily Beast).

Beijing simply won’t take a stance against the North, no matter what it does, for fear that this Communist regime will collapse and leave China to pick up the pieces.

The North Korean Problem

North Korea is a problem.  It’s a little like slavery in 19th century America.  There’s tragic human suffering.  And no easy solution to the problem.  If the current regime falls, some nation (or nations) will have to absorb the huge costs of reincorporating the North Korean people into an open society.  Feed them.  Deprogram them.  Prevent them from devolving into civil war (the oppressed versus the ruling elite and their huge standing army). 

The costs will be staggering.  So great that maintaining the status quo is the easy option.  Even though it condemns the North Korean people.  And leaves a ruling elite in power that may go rogue and do something nuclear.

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